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“Jerusalem of Gold” Penned by Naomi Shemer in June 1967 with Verse Added to Celebrate the Recapture of Jerusalem
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Back to the wells and to the fountains / Within the ancient walls / The sound of horn from Temple’s mountain / Again so loudly calls

NAOMI SHEMER. Autograph Manuscript Signed of the lyrics, handwritten music manuscript, and a printed booklet with her signature.

Inventory #25672       Price: $125,000

In 1967, a month before the National Song Festival, Mayor Teddy Kollek called for song dedicated to Jerusalem, which Shemer was asked to write. Though Jordan had denied Jewish access to the eastern part of the city since 1948, at the time of Kollek’s request, reunification was far from people’s minds. They had real reason to fear for the nation’s survival as Arab leaders increasingly called to “wipe Israel off the map.”

Sherer at first demurred, worried that she wouldn’t find inspiration in time, but soon started. Ignoring the news, she perfectly captured the ancient longing for the Eternal City. Choosing an unknown young singer, Shuli Natan, for the debut, “Jerusalem of Gold” was sung to an entranced audience on May 15, 1967, Israel Independence Day.

That same day, President Nasser sent the Egyptian army into the Sinai. Then, he ordered the UN Emergency Force to withdraw. On May 22, Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, blockading Eilat, interrupting Israel’s trade with Asia and halting oil imports from its main supplier—Iran. Together, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia fielded more than 450,000 troops, 2,800 tanks, and 800 aircraft focused on the destruction of Israel.

On June 5, Israel preemptively struck in the Sinai, destroying nearly the entire Egyptian air force. Prime Minister Levi Eshkol promised King Hussein that Israel would not attack Jordan unless attacked. Within an hour, at least in part due to false Russian and Egyptian claims that Israel’s strike had failed, the Jordanian army started shelling West Jerusalem. With war on every side, Israel had no plans to take Jerusalem, though Israeli forces were ordered to stop the shelling and relieve Mount Scopus. After pitched battles, Eshkol offered King Hussein a way out, again to no avail. On June 7, at 6:15 a.m., the IDF was ordered to enter Jerusalem. Incredibly, by 10:08 a.m., the Old City was under Israel’s control. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and IDF Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin soon arrived to witness a shofar blown at the Western Wall.

Kollek telegraphed Shemer, who was in the Sinai with her IDF band, asking her to add a new verse, which she did: “We’ve returned to the water cisterns, the market and to the plazas/ A ram’s horn calls us from the Temple Mount in the Old City…

 

1. NAOMI SHEMER Autograph Manuscript Signed, “Jerusalem of Gold” lyrics, including the added verse. [June, 1967]. In Hebrew, in four columns separated by vertical lines, with refrain at bottom. 19.5 x 13.5 cm.

            Shemer’s official manuscript, now in The Naomi Shemer Papers at the National Library of Israel, was first reproduced in print by June 28, 1967. She apparently penned our nearly identical copy at the same time.

     Folding marks & minor foxing, fine.

 

2. NAOMI SHEMER Autograph Musical Manuscript Signed, “Jerusalem of Gold,” in pencil on both sides of the leaf. Titled and signed by Shemer, with handwritten notes on the margins (in Hebrew): play one octave higher; change at the end of the song; or mezzo; the same chord. 24.5 x 17 cm. Slight tears & creases, stains, still fine.

 

3. NAOMI SHEMER. Printed booklet Signed on the front cover, 13 July 1967, “Jerusalem of Gold.” Self-published: “All rights reserved by Naomi Shemer,” Arieli Press, Tel Aviv, [prior to June 28] 1967. Printed bristol sheet, folded in half, reproducing Shemer’s manuscript lyrics (as noted, nearly identical to our copy). With brief notes and transcription of the lyrics in Latin letters, though not including the added verses. 17 x 12.5 cm.

            Good condition despite some stains.

The copy in the Naomi Shemer Archive at the National Library of Israel has her signed dedication to her mother, dated June 28, 1967.

 

JERUSALEM OF GOLD – translation

As clear as wine, the wind is flying
Among the dreamy pines
As evening light is slowly dying
And a lonely bell still chimes.

So many songs, so many stories
The stony hills recall...
Around her heart my city carries
A lonely ancient wall.
Chorus (x2):

Jerusalem all of gold
Jerusalem, bronze and light
Within my heart I shall treasure
Your song and sight.

Alas, the dry wells and fountains,
Forgotten market-day
The sound of horn from Temple’s mountain
No longer calls to pray.

The rocky caves at night are haunted
By sounds of long ago
When we were going to the Jordan
By way of Jericho

                Chorus…

But when I come to count your praises
And sing Hallel to you
With pretty rhymes I dare not crown you
As other poets do.

Upon my lips is always burning
Your name, so dear, so old:
If I forget Jerusalem
Of bronze and light and gold...
                Chorus…

Back to the wells and to the fountains
Within the ancient walls
The sound of horn from Temple’s mountain
Again so loudly calls,

From rocky caves, this very morning
A thousand suns will glow

And we shall go down to the Jordan
By way of Jericho.

                Chorus…

Provenance

Ex-Yermiyahu [Jeremiah] ‘Yerri’ Rimon, perhaps the greatest Israeliana collector in the world. According to David Glassman, Yerri “combined encyclopedic knowledge with an especially good eye for quality and in-depth understanding. His collection was immensely broad but he nonetheless could talk passionately about every single item it contained, in detail.”

The two manuscript documents were purchased at a local auction house in the 1980s, and the printed copy of the song was purchased separately, also at auction, around the same time. Concerned that his family would not know which items were important if anything happened to him, in 1993, Yerri started writing values and notes on his items.

[Lyric Manuscript – pencil notes on verso, in Hebrew]: “In the handwriting of the poet and composer Naomi Shemer!/ Estimate $2,000 7.94”

[Musical Manuscript – pencil note on verso, in Hebrew] “Estimate $2,000 7.94”

The only other copy of the lyrics we’re aware of having been publicly offered was penned later and donated by Shemer to benefit the Friends of the Israel Air Force. It was sold at their “Israel Air Force at 50” gala in 1998. Though the auction estimate was only $60,000-90,000, this inspired an American philanthropist to make a $1,000,000 gift.

The End of the War

After just three days of fighting, Israel had captured the Sinai, the West Bank and the Gaza strip. The UN Security Council’s call for a cease-fire was immediately accepted by Israel and Jordan, and by Egypt a day later. Syrian shelling of northern Israel continued, and on June 9, Israel captured the Golan Heights. Syria accepted a cease-fire on June 10. Though Israeli losses were a fraction of what would have happened if Israel had waited to be attacked, victory in the Six Day War came at a high cost: 777 dead and 2,586 wounded. In proportion to population, this was about double American losses in all 8 years of the Vietnam War. Casualties on the other side were far greater still: 15,000 Egyptians, 2,500 Syrians, and 800 Jordanians were killed.

Basque Influence

Shemer was asked many times about her tune’s similarity to an old Basque lullaby, which she denied having known. According to an article by Tom Segev in Haaretz, (May 5, 2005), however, she eventually learned that she had in fact heard the song sung by a friend, Nehama Hendel, in the mid-1960s. She was not conscience of being influenced by it then, but days before her death, Shemer wrote to friend and composer Gil Aldema of the guilt she felt after it was brought to her attention. “I consider the entire affair a regrettable work accident - so regrettable that it may be the reason for me taking ill.”

One key difference had already allowed her to win a copyright case. “I also didn’t know that an invisible hand dictated changes in the original to me.... It turns out that someone protected me and provided me with my eight notes that grant me the rights to my version of the folk song. But all this was done, as I said, unwittingly… My only comfort is that I tell myself that perhaps it is a tune of the Anusim [Spanish or Portuguese Jews who were forced to convert but secretly practiced Judaism] and all I did was restore past glory.”


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